Let’s unpack all this, as there’s quite a few strands.
On its own, a microtransaction can work fine - it’s easier to persuade someone to spend £1.50 than £50. The bigger question is what does the transaction get you and what is the effect on the game? Especially if it is a multiplayer game? This is where one issue has come up - instead of having a level playing field, the new structures allow people to gain an advantage by simply paying for it.
Pay to win on a single player game? OK, if that’s the way you want to go, fine, but multiplayer? That seems off.
If a microtransaction is seen as an optional extra, something that doesn’t have to be bought, then it works OK - you don’t like it, don’t buy it. What both Gamespot and Polygon have objected to is Shadow of War’s structure is tilted towards requiring you to go the microtransaction route, unless you prefer to spend a long, long time avoiding it, at least if you want to get to the game’s absolute ending. That’s new. It’s also really cynical and a big step up from previous completionist challenges like avoid 200 lightning bolts or find 200 feathers. The companies know gamers have completionist tendencies, so this cynically exploits that.
Then there’s the Loot Crate concept - pay £5 or whatever to get a box of undetermined content you can only see what you’ve actually got, after purchase. In this structure, microtransaction is simply the mechanism for buying loot boxes. The problem is that this is basically gambling.
This is the big problem. The gambling industry is heavily regulated and can’t go for kids, games can simply calling their system ‘loot box’. Eventually, the law will catch up but what happens in the interim?
The upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront II has set up its progression system in the game as being entirely via loot boxes! You can find YouTube commentary making the case very effectively that this is a stupid idea. Its crassly commercial on a game that, like Shadow of War, did not need it. Both games were guaranteed to make a crapload of cash, it’s naked corporate greed.
In a game like Horizon: Zero Dawn, where quest rewards are loot boxes that give a random set of resources to help you with the game’s crafting system, that works very, very well. The big difference is that I’m not paying actual money for them.